Q: I was lucky to get a job shortly after I graduated from university, and I would really like to advance my career. However, I have heard scary stories of young female employees being preyed on by senior employees and I am quite frightened about interacting with my colleagues and bosses. How can I establish clear boundaries with my co-workers without being cold or unapproachable? What should I avoid doing so that I maintain a professional image?
This is your first job, and you must manage your challenges. However, do not let your fears cause you to isolate yourself from your peers and supervisors. To advance in your career, you must work with others. Some colleagues will be pleasant while others will be difficult to work with, but you must find a good formula to associate well with all your colleagues. Besides being cordial, you must meet your objectives and add value to the business, as this is the only way to keep your job and grow in your career. To deliver on your roles, you will need to establish a good relationship with your supervisor because he or she can determine the trajectory your career takes.
First, understand your boss’s management style. There are those who require frequent updates as you are doing your assignments, while others only focus on the result and will be happy if you deliver a suitable product in the end, even without divulging all the minute details. Others will require you to report to the office on time every day, while others encourage flexi time as long you meet your objectives.
Knowing how your supervisor likes to operate will help you relate better with him or her, and may prompt the supervisor to give you additional responsibilities which could speed up your growth at the workplace. Your boss might also help you grow by offering you training opportunities which will increase your value to the employer.
Also, be conscious of the culture of the workplace and adhere to it. Maintain decorum when dealing with your colleagues, and never seek to advance in your career by making your peers look bad, or to take all the credit when you’ve worked on an assignment as a team.
Avoid being too familiar with your colleagues, but be approachable. Maintain appropriate personal space when dealing with your workmates, but be cautious about sharing details of your personal life with colleagues as this might make you vulnerable to harassment. Separate your professional life from all social engagements. When invited to attend company social events, don’t overindulge in alcohol. Maintain the same professional space even when interacting with your peers. Enjoy your working life and if you feel that your career has stagnated, you are at liberty to look elsewhere.
Jane Muiruri - Senior HR Manager, Nation Media Group; [email protected]